This was the day in which we would visit Burg Eltz, one of the two magnificent-looking castles we were looking forward to see during the trip.
But this was in a different town and there were various ways to go from Cochem.
At the end, we chose to go to Moselkern by train and then hike the ~5km to the castle, since the weather was looking nice and we were sure if we didn’t do that we would regret it forever.
There are other options that also involve a train, and then a bus that makes it easier to reach the castle; that might make sense if you have impaired mobility, are travelling with kids, or are in a rush.
In our case, we figured out when the trains to Moselkern would run, and were mindful of this when having breakfast, as they’re not super frequent and you don’t want to be waiting for longer if you can avoid it.
Still, there were some delays so I had plenty of time to wander around the Cochem train station and try to take Wes Anderson style pictures while the detailed reasons for the delay were broadcasted over the tannoy. I can’t remember what the details were exactly, and my pictures did not go according to plan, so I’ll spare you both 😏
Eventually the train manifested, and we boarded it promptly.
A while later and after once again enjoying the scenic views of terraces looking onto the river, we arrived to Moselkern.
It became evident that we were not the only ones who set out on a trek to the castle, as we found ourselves walking towards the same direction with a substantial amount of people, but the group quickly broke down into subgroups going at their own pace.
It was not a problem though, as the path is very clearly signalled and we did not feel like we would get lost:
It first goes through the “core” of Moselkern, then its benevolent looking suburbs, and then sets down into a riverside pedestrian path, going in parallel to the Elzbach river, and I can imagine this path can be really exciting in wet weathers when you’re not wearing proper shoes.
Eventually you cross the Elzbach (using a bridge) and the path starts climbing, with gentle inclines sometimes, a tad steeper other times. And you get distracted by the canopy of green and the ferns and mosses (or at least, I did).
You might also get stung by some evil nettles when you step aside to give way to oncoming hikers. The bastards (the nettles, not the people)!
Fortunately, Devvers put on the Healer hat and found another plant (Greater Plantain), whose leaves, rubbed against the itchy bump in my arm, reduced the swelling and itch.
What wonder of nature! ⚕️🧙🏻🌱
After you’ve been climbing for a while, the Elzbach becomes but a murmur, and at a given point a subtle but marked change in scenery takes place. It becomes less verdant and moist, and browner, drier, instead. The path also becomes less rustic and stoney, and a bit wider and softer, padded with dry leaves and small gravel. No more nettles to sting you when crossing with other people!
Shortly the path turns… and you finally catch sight of the castle in the distance. At last!
It was hard not to think of the book covers for classic Grimm tales which I used to read as a child! If knights in armor or carts surrounded by a cloud of smoke and pulled by no visible animal had sped past us, it would have felt perfectly normal and expectable.
There was still one bridge to cross and one final and way steeper climb, up the stairs to the castle, and there we were queueing to get tickets.
You are not allowed to take pictures of the rooms during the visit, so here’s one of the courtyard which I took while waiting for the English tour to start. It’s easy to see how the castle is a miraculous amalgamation of parts built one over the other one over the years!
We were lucky with the timing: we arrived just as the queue was very short, and the next English tour started just minutes afterwards.
It was very interesting to meander through the rooms and get a sense of the place, and imagine how people would have lived in there, but also to learn about all the history, customs and politics of the place, the three (now just one) owner families of the castle, and ironically how useless as a fortress the castle actually was, because being isolated and without any alternative means of escape meant if you got sieged you eventually had to give up or die of hunger.
When the tour finished, we sat for a bit in the courtyard to reflect on what we had seen, and how irritating it must be for tour guides to have to herd children who want to put their hands on everything they shouldn’t when their parents bring them to places (such as castles) they have no interest in, and how patient the guide was, what with all the screams and wails as well…
After this brief pause for reflection, we looked at “the treasury” of the castle, which was also included in the ticket price. I was sort of expecting a treasure chest full of gold coins or something similar, but it was more like a lot of precious items, not necessarily gold or metal. Trinkets, armour, swords, gauntlets, ecclesiastical items, etc.
We then looked at the bar in the castle, but the queues were considerable, and we were neither that hungry yet, neither that patient to queue, so we opted to get going and see if we could have lunch on the restaurant we had seen on the way up. And that’s when we appreciated how lucky we had been with our timing: by the time we crossed the castle gate again, the queue to buy tickets to the castle was immense!
So moral of the story: get early to your castle of choice!
Burg Eltz (Eltz Castle)
And so we started walking back the approximately 2.5 km to the restaurant, which is half-way the 5km hike. This was easier in that it was downhill, but it was also harder in that our muscles were starting to get quite tired after the hike and the standing up while visiting.
However, we persisted, and we found that what had been an empty looking rural restaurant before, was now buzzing with activity! We would need to… figure out how to get service?
The problem was that it was not evident at all where to go or who to speak to in order to get a table. There was no “reception” or “entrance” per se: people were seated outside but there were multiple doors through which what we presumed were waiters were coming and going.
Was this a hotel actually? But it seemed to be open to random members of the public… maybe…? Maybe not?
We approached a door which had a menu, but it looked like it was leading to either a kitchen or a hotel reception. We then approached what looked like a lodge or a Canadian-mountains themed restaurant. Maybe this was it? Weirdly, the same waiter that looked like they had not seen us when we approached the potential hotel reception was now getting out of this lodge with a tray of food.
Was everything all part of the same thing?
It seemed so.
At some point Devvers just got tired of all this confusion, invoked all of the German powers within and somehow negotiated us a table outdoors in German. Success!!!
The menu offered vegetarian and vegan options but somehow they didn’t look super appealing to us, and we both ended up getting the same food: some sort of mushroom schnitzel special. It came with some salad and potatoes. It was OK, and we were so hungry and tired that it probably tasted even better than it actually did!
I had a Bitburger Radler, which is a shandy-style of beer. Although I don’t know if it’s mixed on-site (like when you ask for “a clara” in Spain and they mix beer and gaseosa), but I would suppose it comes already premixed.
All I know is: it was refreshing and lightweight!
I had to take a picture of this napkin because it represents all that I could conjure about cottage-core Germany if you asked me to think of that concept. It has everything!
After paying (cash only, something something about the card machine being broken—strange for a hotel if I might say!), we continued our trek down to Moselkern. Perhaps at a more sedate pace now, since we were full of drink and food…
We saw a sort of llama farm that we hadn’t noticed on the way in. And once in the town, we heard music that we tracked down as coming from some sort of outdoors party with a live band and a very cheerful singer. Devvers thought it was like the drinking songs in Oktoberfest. Maybe!
In my post prandial, mid-digestion state, all those events had started acquiring a sort of dreamy-like quality. Was this really happening, or was I sleeping?
By the time we arrived to the train station, I am sure I was half-asleep. Half-sleep walking.
We sat on a bench in the platform (only one platform, serving the two tracks) to wait for our train.
It was hot, it was quiet, sedate, the melodies of the drinking songs just a distant hum, as the background noise to the slowly undulating vibe of a warm afternoon, with the random bird chirp, far and then close, all of them gently telling me: “close your eyes. Close them for a second, you know you want to”.
I’m sure I somehow managed to fall asleep while sitting upright by the time Devvers said: the train is here!
Back in our hotel, we made good use of the sauna to relax the muscles. We felt so refreshed that we even felt like getting out again!
Or perhaps it was my drive to get a celebratory ice-cream. Perhaps.
I was not expecting to find such a thing, but I ended up having Riesling ice-cream! I paired it with melon because peach wasn’t available. What a funny thing to do!
I was happy, even if the flavour was very subtle—I tend to find sorbets quite subtle, in general.
Devvers wanted a beer, and we tried visiting a few places we had found in the maps, but they were either shut, or looked really unappealling–like they very much were targeted to locals only?
And that’s how we ended up in an Irish pub ☘️ 🤣
It was not a very German experience, but we had German beer, and we enjoyed the views of the Pinnerkreuz (the white cross on top of that mountain, which you can’t see because it’s quite far away) and even more so the spectacle of two creative idiots who decided they wanted to climb to the top but wanted to do it by walking across the terraces. Despite the fact that it not only wasn’t public land, but there was not a public path…
We would see them try to hold to the rails that are used to transport grapes down the slopes (and fail) with a cart on wheels, as if they were handrails (which they weren’t). Then their heads would disappear as they walked behind the lines of vines. We would see a head pop out after a while, then they’d try to climb fruitlessly from another part of the terrace, trying to hold to anything that would give them a lever to continue their foolish quest. It took them a long time to realise that if something is so not evidently a path, maybe it’s best to abandon? Or they could have consulted their maps app of choice, which would have indicated them how to reach the peak using the cable train or any other of the actually walkable paths!
Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, they abandoned and walked back to the base of the hill, where their friend had been sitting and waiting on some steps. They were shaking debris and soil off their clothes, while pointing at various points in the terraces they had tried to climb, with what I interpreted was an air of indignation, while their friend looked at them with an expression of: you’re such a pair of idiots, I’m glad I didn’t partake of your idea and rather just stayed here on my own.
The things quiet observation brings…!
And then we wanted to get some food but we had committed the sin of the small places: we had not booked anything, and it was past 5pm. And if you thought Friday was bad, Sunday afternoon when all the day trippers had gone was even worse!
At the end we ended up lucky and got some snacks from a Mexican style restaurant. I was so tired, there were no photos at all. I don’t even remember what I had! I think it was a vegan burger? And Devvers had some veggie tacos? Something like that. It had been a really busy day! We were exhausted!